Biz Book Review: When Everyone is a Long-Distance Leader

Updated 8/11/2020 2:21 PM

When author and friend Wayne Turmel dropped by my office in 2018 with his new book, I was wildly supportive of him--and only mildly interested in the topic, "The Long-Distance Leader."

In my business, I mostly was meeting with people face-to-face. Oh, I had used Skype with clients in California, France and Amsterdam, but I didn't see a keen need for learning the Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.


How could I have known there was a pandemic around the corner that would change our working lives forever? What was once more of a curiosity -- working remotely and leading effectively while doing so -- has now become a bottom-line necessity. As we Zoom our way through multiple daily meetings and accommodate working remotely in swift Darwinian style, we're beginning to see the gap. Enter co-authors Kevin Eikenberry and Mr. Turmel who through this book have effectively closed that gap.

"Leadership first, location second," says the book cover, the first rule of 19 Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership cited by the authors. These rules support each chapter, from getting started to achieving outcomes at a distance. Understanding the difference between leadership and management is key to unpacking some of the elements of their remote leadership models.

While virtual communication has all kinds of benefits, there are also inherent traps. The book addresses some of those landmines, particularly when coaching and giving team members feedback. If keeping those connections strong is vital to our business (and whose isn't?), the authors advise us to:

• Make every interaction conscious and intentional

• Keep accountability clear

• Avoid "confirmation bias" which is enhanced remotely

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• Assume positive intent

• Check in, don't check up

The resonating theme throughout the book is trust. To function remotely, workers must have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Then, they must be free to do their work while able to rely on leaders for guidance. Like so much in life, and in business, it all boils down to the people. Are you visible to them? Do you care about them? When you don't see people every day in person, these cues may get lost.

Sharing and embedding company culture is more challenging in the virtual world. An awareness and understanding of that challenge, and adapting to the technology as well as other people's styles, contribute to a team's success. There are so many types of media we can use to communicate that we need to consider adapting to the "Golden Suggestion" in working with others: that is, "Communicate in ways that work best for others rather than based on your personal preferences." For more seasoned command-and-control leaders, this may require a significant shift in thinking. Leveraging technology to our advantage during and after this pandemic is one more way to become a remarkable leader. When in doubt, focus on that person on the other side of the webcam.

• Vickie Austin is a business and career coach, professional speaker and author of Circles of Gold: Honoring Your Network for Business and Career Success. She hosts "Biz Books Review" via Zoom on the third Tuesday of every month. You can reach her at, 312-213-1795, and connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@Vickie_Austin).

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